Despite being passed just over a year ago, a lot of work has gone into making Oklahoma a safe, reliable place to access medical marijuana. There is more work to be done though and medical cannabis businesses in the state are preparing for a raft of new regulations designed to make the industry safe and compliant.
Expanding regulation inevitably includes expanding the cost and overhead of those regulations. Something the new medical marijuana businesses have to shoulder themselves.
New regulations are expected around package labeling, product testing, waste management and seed-to-sale tracking. The intent is to keep the MMJ industry as clean as possible, enforce consistent packaging standards across the state, enforce safe product testing and effective, sustainable waste management.
The seed-to-sale audit system will ensure only legal sources of cannabis are used and that organized crime or other entities don’t get a foothold in the industry. All businesses dealing with medical marijuana have to have a full inventory tracking system in place that can track where the cannabis came from, the transport method, the type and a range of other identifiable metrics.
Oklahoma is making a huge effort to control this business while keeping it viable. It has huge potential with forecasts estimating a revenue of between $140-$180 million in the first year alone. That’s without the jobs and tax revenue a new industry brings with it.
So far, Oklahoma has issued over 7,300 business licenses and well over 200,000 patient licenses for medical marijuana. That’s just in that same first year. The numbers for both are expected to grow exponentially which is why the authorities want to set up a coherent system to manage it.
The passage of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act last spring has change the landscape completely. As has the so-called “Unity Bill” and a number of “trailer bills” dealing with specific issues such as waste management. Local cities and authorities are trying to stifle the industry by setting much tougher rules but don’t seem to be having much luck.
So far, regulators seem to have the balance right. Necessary regulation to help maintain the industry with enough legislation to exert the control necessary to enforce safety and standards. Even the industry association agrees.
Bud Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association, said he wouldn’t call the regulations strict per se, but “straightforward and necessary.”
“The industry association supports this because there’s so much illegal activity occurring, and we want to support businesses that are doing it right,” he said.
Impending changes to tighten up the medical marijuana industry include:
- An increase in approval times for business licenses, up from 14 days to 90 days to allow further scrutiny.
- More stringent residency requirements where 75% of the businesses owners need to have been resident in Oklahoma for at least five years.
- Clear packaging with ‘THC’ front and center with a statement saying the cannabis has been tested for contaminants. Packaging must also be clear, not purposely attractive and make no health benefit claims.
- Testing enforcement for all growers and processors. All batches must be tested by an approved laboratory prior to sale. They must be tested for heavy metals, pesticides, THC and terpene potency.
- Waste management only by licensed disposal companies with appropriate facilities.
That’s a lot of new compliance but even the most cynical should realize it will all benefit the customer. Aside from the seed-to-sale system, the customer benefits from all of the changes being put forward and that should also benefit the industry as a whole.